Robert Wahler was interviewed by Pauline Katz on August 7, 2011 at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA.
Robert Wahler begins his interview by going over his family history. Beginning with his maternal relatives, Robert narrates how his great-grandfather came to the United States in the late 1800s from Russia. His maternal great-grandparents settled in Boston with their six children. Robert’s paternal grandfather was very wealthy Czech man. His grandfather sensed the animosity towards Jews growing in Europe and decided to leave in 1936. Robert tells the story of how his grandfather arrived in New York, a story that brings up Francisco Franco and a year spent in Santo Domingo.
Robert goes on to discuss his childhood, which was filled with Jewish holidays as well as Christmas mass. Growing up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood, Robert always knew he was Jewish, but he enjoyed participating in other holidays and traditions. Robert weaves in and out of stories of his childhood, including his participation in the club Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA). Robert then shares the story of how he met his wife and eventually goes on to discuss his two children.
The middle of the interview leaves Robert’s childhood and focuses substantially on his father’s business. Robert shares an incredible story about setting up a dinner for his father and two of the Iranian Shah’s brothers. Speaking of his father brings Robert back to his childhood, and in these moments of the interview, Robert discusses the role of Yiddish in his home growing up. Robert then returns to his time in AZA, where he fully narrates the story of how he met his wife.
The final portion of Robert’s interview focuses heavily on Robert’s own work experience. As the interview ends, Robert shares his thoughts on organized religion and his Jewish identity. He leaves the interview advising listeners to “live life as you would like it.”
To learn more about the Wexler Oral History Project, visit: http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/tell-your-story